Photo ID # G09.11.10_BOB_SWE_ELM_0060S_1
Car #: #NA
Driver (s) : Photographers:  Bob Sweeten and Walter Chernokal
Location: (Top Photo:  Alcyon)
Date: 1958
Photographer: Joe Klune (top photo) and Ralph Richards (bottom photo)
Photo provided by: Russ Dodge
Comments: Senior Moment From Russ Dodge:

Champions With Cameras Never Photographed!

Recently (Sept 2010) AARN's Earl Krause dedicated most of his column as a remembrance of three gentlemen who set the standards for excellence in communications in the sport of auto racing. Walter Chernokal columnist, photography and announcer, Nat Klienfield columnist, announcer and Bill Singer announcer ( also driver in the 50's) These three set the standards for all of those who follow in their footsteps.

Joe Klune took this photo at Alcyon Speedway in Pitman, N.J., on Labor Day, September 1, 1958. His father-in-law's car, the Raymer Special 10A, had just won the 2nd heat race with Bill Wark driving. This photo has always been a favorite photo because Joe captured the "essence of the day". The announcer's pagoda is there along with a section of the bleachers located next to the covered grandstand. The guy walking away on the left with the white outfit and hat was starter Johnny Favenger, a former "big car" driver himself.

The photographer in the red and white shirt recording the win was Bob Sweeten. Looking at this photo for the "umpteenth time" inspired this Senior Moment.

The photographer is a "special breed of animal" dedicated to their passion as much as if not more than anybody in auto racing. I want the Senior Moment to recognize the photographers by using Bob Sweeten as my main example. I'll be mentioning Walt Chernokal also, and I'm honored to say before I continue, that I was fortunate enough of call these gentlemen my friends, later in life.

Walter was well established as "the man" by the early 1950's who along with his photography, columns and press releases, he booked and managed the NADA sprint car club. Whatever he was involve in doing, he achieved excellence. Walter was the "official" track photographer at Alcyon in the early 50's.

In 1957 Bob Sweeten appeared on the scene at Alcyon and started taking photos on a regular basis. Without going into details which don't matter to much today, Walter left Alcyon after the first month of the 1957 season and went to Pleasantville and started working for George Stocking. This working relationship would last all the way up into the 1960's when George, promoted indoor racing in Atlantic City, using Walter as the "go to" PR man and announce. Bob Sweeten became the track photographer at Alcyon when Walter left.

As a teenage in my first year of actually going to the races, I couldn't wait to get to Bob's car in the infield. I believe it was a new 1957 Chevy, with the trunk open and an easel set up with some pictures on a small sheet of plywood. Bob was usually there when he wasn't on the track taking pictures. He was a peoples person, fun to talk with and would always try to accommodate you with a picture you "had to have". To be truthful, some of his early prints left a little to be desired quality wise, but 60 years later they are perfect!

Bob loved the sport and all those involved with it. His photography expanded as he followed his "racing family" to where ever they may be running. Photos by Sweeten were at Reading and many other speedways in the Northeast. His dedication would often require him to drive to Trenton from his home in Clarksboro, in the middle of a Sunday Night , to slide a package of fresh prints he had taken that evening at Bridgeport, under the door at the AARN so they would be included in next week's paper published on Monday!

Bob loved being around the sport, particularly Jackie McLaughlin, Budd Olsen but also included Ralph Smith, PeeWee Pobletts in his circle of idols. He enjoyed reliving stories about them whenever he encountered an interested person interested in their adventures.

Joe Klune's picture that day caught Bob in his usual position following every race at Alcyon. Recording the win for the program book or a fan's collection of recorded history. Bob lived long enough to be active with the transition to digital photography. He got to use the wire transfer of photos that would have save him hours of work and travel, in his early days. Now photographers take more pictures in one month than most did in a season when using paper and negatives!

The second photo was taken at an Elmer Reunion held about ten years ago. Bob flew up from his Florida home to attend the event. Here he is with Walter Chernokal slightly over 50 years from his start at Alcyon. It was priceless to see the tears in his eyes as he renewed friendships with his racing family from the early years.

I guess what I trying to say is how lucky we are to have the photographers who recorded this history. I hope that 50 years from now there will be people who get excited over their old photographs. Thanks to all the champions who have provided us with beautiful windows to our past and will continue to provide them in the future. It helps us to understand the importance of that photographer recognition on pictures. That all "these guy" get majority of the time! Thanks Walt, John, Ace, Ace Jr. Charlie, Virgil, Dave, Ken, William and the many, many more!

Senior Moment By: Russ Dodge

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Date: Visitor's  Name:


09.17.10 Jim Milsted Anyone can buy a camera and take pictures. A professional photographer has the experience to be at the right place at the right time. I was always amazed at Bob & Walts photo's. They captured some of the most memorable pictures of local stock car racing ever. Recorded history. Just one picture can make time travel possible. More so if you were there the day the picture was snapped.

I believe that there is no such thing as a bad picture. You can not retake a picture once the race is over. It may not be the best quality, but is better than nothing. There are times I shot many rolls of film at a party, holiday or race. And other times I brought my camera and didn't even take one shot !

I sometimes put up my historic display at local schools and get to speak to the kids about it. I ask" how many of you have had friends that moved away"? Almost all raise their hands. "How many of you have a picture of that friend" I ask ? So very few raise there hands. So I tell them to give up an ice cream or candy and buy a cheap camera and take lots of pictures of your friends and neighborhood. Because long after the taste of the ice cream is gone, you'll hold a sweet memory of that picture in your hand that last a lifetime.

09.17.10 Jack Kromer Nice picture that captured the moment. I didn't realize Bob Sweeten shot pics in the 50's. Thanks for posting.
09.18.10 Bill Ore We also enjoy a lot of Russ' work here on the Vault. Thanks to Joe for maintaining this site so we can all remember.

What Jim said above is very true. I wish somebody had said that to me when I was younger. I think back about things and so many times I wish I had pictures, but at the time I guess I didn't think it was important or just didn't think. I guess when we get a little older, we look at things differently and understand the importance of remembering our past. Not just in racing, but in life itself.
10.12.10 Rick Sweeten Thanks so much Russ for this tribute it means a lot to me and so many others. My dad had many friends in racing. Among them were the likes of Walter, Jackie and Budd, Leon, Toby, Taz and George Wingate, and Russ, yes Russ you were always counted among his best friends in racing, and in life.

Like most people, I often wonder what the world was like at the time I was conceived. In looking at this post and the dates of the photos I found it ironic that I was born 9 months and three days after this original photo was taken. What was my dad doing with his time (well, apparently not all of it) photographing racing at Alcyon Speedway. Both Walter and my dad shared a passion for racing, a passion that has been handed down to the next generation.

Thanks again for sharing.

Rick Sweeten
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